Hokkaido, the northern-most island of Japan, offers some of the most desolate and rugged yet sublimely beautiful winter landscape photography opportunities on the planet. It’s the minimalist winter photographer’s dream.
Tokyo based photographer Martin Bailey has been traveling to Hokkaido yearly for more than 10 years and has a deep understanding of the island. Although British born, Martin has lived in Japan for 25 years, speaks fluent Japanese and understands the culture fully, making him your perfect host.
You’ll be provided with more details in our tour guidebook after you reserve your place, but here is an outline of our itinerary during our twelve day landscape photography adventure in the frozen far north of Japan.
To ensure that the group is all together and ready to leave early on Jan 9, we include the night of Jan 8 (Sunday) in the tour, and for those that arrive early enough in the evening, we will start to get to know each other over an optional dinner at the hotel at Haneda airport.
Fly from Haneda Airport (Tokyo) to Asahikawa Airport in central Hokkaido. This area offers beautiful inland winter landscape opportunities, with rolling hills and distant mountains, streams and the occasional lone tree on a hill. We stay in a hotel near the beautiful Shirohige (White Beard) Falls, which appears as a breathtaking iridescent blue in the dawn light. We spend our first three nights in this area, before traveling to the west coast of the island.
From day four we spend two days based in a coastal hotel at the small fishing town of Haboro. The coast is punctuated with groups of wave breaking tetrapods that make for stark subjects in the rough seas. The port at Haboro also offers some nice industrial fishing boat scenes and paraphernalia.
A steady drive up the west coast takes us past the islands of Rishiri and Rebun to Wakkanai. Wakkanai is the northern most city of Japan, and a great base to photograph the rugged seascapes, fishing harbours and fish drying frames.
At the start of day 8 we drive to the Souya Harbor, northern-most tip of Japan, from where on a clear day we’ll be able to see the Russian island of Sakhalin to the north.
We then head down the east coast of Hokkaido to the town of Ohmu where we spend a further two days. Dawn will give us the possibility of photographing a misshaped sun as it rises over a slither of land in the distance and we’ll explore the coastline and go inland for a while before heading further down the coast to Lake Saroma.
Our last two days in Hokkaido are spent at Lake Saroma, with lake side views from our luxurious hotel. Saroma is the largest lake in Hokkaido and the third largest in Japan. Also known as the Saroma Lagoon, this shallow body of water freezes easily, offering minimalist landscape photography opportunities.
On the final day we’ll spend the morning photographing in the Saroma or Abashiri areas and inland winter landscape on the way to the Memanbetsu Airport, then return to Tokyo, Haneda airport on an afternoon flight.
The weather from Siberia beats down relentlessly on Hokkaido, particularly the north-western coast that we’ll be visiting. This means there is a very good chance that we find ourselves snowed-in at the hotel on occasion. Logistically, we will handle this, but as a group we must remain flexible. Those same weather fronts are what make our the locations we visit so amazing, but a sense of adventure and a good sense of humour are essential for all participants of this tour.
We stay in a mix of Japanese and western style hotels, with great food, sometimes buffet style, though often meals prepared specifically for our group. We’ll note if you have an food preferences (allergies, vegetarian etc.) and make changes as possible to suit your needs. Many of the hotels have relaxing hot springs baths to relax after a day out shooting.
Everyone is automatically booked into a single room, unless you participate as a couple or are traveling with a room mate. No single supplement required, but there is a discount for a shared room. Note though that we will not pair you with another traveler, so if you are traveling alone, please book a single room.
After you sign up, you will receive a PDF document to help you with your preparations. This will contain details on recommended camera gear, cold weather clothing, and advice on Japanese etiquette to help make your stay in Japan as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. There is also a detailed itinerary, maps and hotel phone numbers etc. to leave with your loved ones while you’re away.
Note that the US dollar amounts displayed here are updated dynamically every hour, for your reference, but may vary slightly from what you pay due to varying rates used by credit cards and paypal during the conversion from Japanese Yen to your local currency.
Reservation Fee / Deposit – If you decide to cancel up to three months before the start of the tour, your reservation fee will be refunded if we are able to back-fill your place. If you cancel within three months of the start of the tour, we cannot refund your deposit (see notes below)
Tour Fees / Balance – If you cancel your reservation the following charges will be payable (see notes below)
Notes on Cancellation Fees and Notification Timing
Our Tour Operator carries standard insurance necessary by Japanese law but you are strongly advised to arrange the following insurance:
You do not need any special vaccinations for Japan, but you are strongly advised to ensure that you’ve had an influenza shot for that season by no later than two weeks prior to coming to Japan. These tours coincide with the flu season here in Japan, and we would not like you to lose valuable photography days in bed or risk infecting the rest of the group, if we can help it. Vaccinations are not 100% though. It’s good practice to wash your hands and gargle with water when you get to your hotel, especially after traveling on public transport.
To book your place on this tour, pay the reservation fee using the button below.
Please switch currency to Japanese Yen with this pull-down before proceeding. The dollar amounts below may not be accurate as the exchange rates fluctuate. You may need to give the page a few seconds to update…
NOTE: The balance payment is payable 3 months before the start date of the tour. Please use the button above to start the payment process, and ensure that you change the currency to Japanese Yen before checking out.
If you are interested in coming along but want more information, please do not hesitate to contact us.
We look forward to seeing you in Japan, for the winter landscape photography tour of a lifetime!
— Martin Bailey.
Here are a few podcasts to walk you through previous tours.